Syrians use black humour to undermine extremism on both sides

 
Faced with the proliferation of macabre videos and the rise of ultra-violent propaganda coming out of Syria from both anti and pro-Assad forces, a group of Internet users has decided to fight back by creating a music video full of black humour that hopes to highlight the excessive vitriol and, at best, provide moments of comic relief.
 
Two videos in particular pushed the Bidayat (or 'beginnings' in Arabic) collective to act.
 
The first video, filmed last February in the Idlib region in the country’s north by rebel supporters, shows a child sitting on an adult’s shoulders draped in the al Qaeda flag. He sings a jihadist song into a microphone and promises to slit the throats of Alawites, which, like President Bashar Al-Assad, belong to an offshoot of Shiite Islam. He even mimics the gesture with his hand, then with a knife.
 
Screen grab from the first video, in which a kid pretends to cut someone's throat. 
 
The second video, filmed by regime supporters, was uploaded two months later and shows another child singing a song called “You and me, we’re the fourth brigade”, in reference to the Syrian army division led by Maher al-Assad, the brother of the Syrian president. The child links swear words with the names of different Syrian towns by promising to “f**k them” over.
 
The Bidayat collective fought back against such vicious propaganda with a video clip entitled “We are coming to slaughter you”. Well steeped in black humour, the group issues extreme threats: “to massacre Armenians, grill Alawites, slaughter Sikhs, and eat Hindus for dinner”. They go even further -- and finish by promising to “butcher all human beings and exterminate humanity”. No pros, no antis, no problem. The humorous clip was filmed in front of a psychedelic backdrop with rock music playing in the background.
 
 
The Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Although pacifist at first, it slowly turned into an armed conflict between the Alawite regime, and an armed rebellion made up mostly of Sunnis Muslims (the Free Syrian Army) and jihadists (notably the Al-Nusra front, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda). The war in Syria is estimated to have cost the lives of more than 100,000 people so far, most of them civilians.
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"The war hasn’t taken away our sense of humour"

Haythem (not his real name) is in charge of Bidayat, a collective that produces video reports on Syria. He declined to talk about the group’s funding sources.
 
The idea of this parody came to us thanks to one of our members, who often hummed the tune sung by the child in the first video without even realising it. We said we have to do something with this song before we all start singing it, and almost forget its message.

We wrote the song’s lyrics during a work meeting. Then our friend Amen el-Arand, who was a singer at the Syrian Opera before the conflict, worked on the music. This took three weeks. We recorded the clip in a studio in a country neighbouring Syria [for security reasons, Bidayat’s members declined to name the country]. After two weeks of editing, we uploaded the clip onto YouTube. And in barely three days, it was watched by more than 50,000 users!
 
“Laughing and making fun of our misfortune is a survival instinct”
 
Tackling the horrors of war with humour and mockery may seem strange. It’s true that the country is at war, but don’t think for a second that Syrians spend all their time crying! The war hasn’t taken away our sense of humour. Laughing and making fun of our misfortune is also a survival instinct.
 
 
We start our clip with two excerpts from the two opposing videos that both carry the same message of violence. This doesn’t mean that we’re comparing the regime and the opposition. We completely support the Syrian revolution and we don’t give the victim and the killer equal weight. But we do condemn extremism regardless of where it comes from and we believe that, with regards to children, both sides are committing abuse.
 
We’re not naïve enough to believe that our videos will change the face of the war. Above all, we believe in the power of art and we want to remind people that Syrians do not condone what is happening: the pacifists have not given up.
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Sarra Grira (@SarraGrira).

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Journalist for article "Syrians use black humor to undermine..."

As a journalist the use of the words black humor instead of something like dark or obscure or any other word I'm sure (as a journalist) you could have thought of. Black humor is funny and comics that use black humor would see this head line and wonder. " AS A JOURNALIST ONE WOULD THINK OF MAYBE USING A DIFFERENT TERM (I don't know, I'm just sayin)!

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